ISRO Scientist Lalithambika Conferred Highest French Civilian Award
New Delhi: V R Lalithambika, the former director of the Directorate of the Human Spaceflight Programme at ISRO, was honoured with the prestigious Légion d’honneur, the highest French civilian award on Tuesday. The recognition was bestowed upon her in appreciation of her significant contributions to fostering space cooperation between France and India. The Ambassador of France to India, Thierry Mathou presented her the accolade on behalf of the French government, according to PTI.
Established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Legion of Honour stands as the highest civilian award bestowed by the French Republic. It is granted in recognition of exceptional service to France, without regard to the nationality of the individuals receiving the honour.
Lalithambika, an accomplished scientist at ISRO specialising in advanced launch vehicle technology, has contributed to various ISRO rockets, with a particular focus on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). This information was conveyed in a press statement issued by the Embassy of France in India. In 2018, while serving as the Director of the Human Spaceflight Programme, she collaborated closely with the French National Space Agency (Centre national d’études spatiales – CNES) for India’s Gaganyaan project.
Lalithambika played a key role in facilitating the signing of the initial collaborative agreement between CNES and ISRO on human spaceflight, enabling the exchange of specialists in space medicine between the two countries. In 2021, she coordinated with CNES for the signing of a second agreement between France and India pertaining to the Indian astronaut programme. This significant event took place during the visit of the former French Foreign Affairs Minister to ISRO in Bengaluru.
As part of this agreement, the French space agency committed to training India’s flight physicians and CAPCOM mission control teams. This training would occur in France at the CADMOS center for the development of microgravity applications and space operations at CNES in Toulouse, as well as at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany.
French Ambassador Mathou expressed his delight in conferring the Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur on Dr. V.R. Lalithambika, acknowledging her as a distinguished scientist and trailblazer in space technology. He praised her expertise, accomplishments, and unwavering efforts, highlighting the significant impact on the Indo-French space partnership.
Upon receiving the award, Lalithambika expressed her sincere hope that this honour would inspire more women to pursue STEM careers and excel in their chosen fields.